In the Distance
By Mike Stevens
I stormed out to my car in an absolute fury; who in the hell did my bosses think they were? Telling me I had an attitude problem! I was positively livid; I could feel my blood pressure zooming up to the dangerous range. I slammed the unfortunate car into 1st gear, and squealed my displeasure all the way out of the parking lot. As I sat at the stop sign waiting for a miracle break in the never-ending flow of traffic, my knuckles were white with tension, and my arms did their best to squeeze the life out of the poor steering wheel. I thought I spotted a break, and popped the clutch to start forward. Instantly, a horn sounded out its displeasure, and an unseen car had to swerve to avoid a collision. I quietly mouthed several swear words, and jammed on my brakes. Several cars blasted their horns at me, as they had to come to an unexpected stop. I slammed the thing into reverse, and backed out the way I'd come. An angry horn blared at me from there, too. In my rearview mirror, I saw silent cursing as the cars behind me had to back up, too. I thought,
'Excuse me, there jerks; I don't like it any better than you guys!', as I backed up far enough to clear the highway, which immediately clogged up bumper to bumper.
"Damn it, there ought to be a stop light here!" I said to myself.
A 1/2 hour later, I finally made it out of town. If it were possible, my blood pressure had climbed even higher. I didn't smoke, but a cigarette sounded good right about then. I couldn't wait to get home and crack open a cool one, followed by several more. The normal stress of the workday, combined with the anger of being told I had a bad attitude, had really been to much! My shoulders ached with tension, and my head was killing me due to the throbbing headache that had come on. I knew I should slow down, as it had snowed during the day, although it was crystal clear now, and was starting to freeze on this February day, but all I could think about was the beer waiting for me at home. Suddenly, I must have hit a patch of ice, because the steering wheel did absolutely nothing as I tried to correct a sudden sideways drift. The car slid, then caught when it found relatively dry pavement, and for a heart-stopping second, I thought the car was going to flip, but then it must have hit another patch of ice, and as I had been travelling at a speed too fast for the conditions, it veered off the highway and out into the fields. As the snow lay in drifts, as soon as the tires hit it, the car decelerated very rapidly, and I wrenched my neck painfully against the seat belt. It was a good thing I was wearing it, or I would have been eating the dashboard. As I sat there, waiting for my heart to start beating, I took stock of my situation. The car was hopelessly stuck in the snow, and was not going anywhere soon. I had lightweight work clothes on (I worked in a CPA's office), and was facing a many-mile walk home with snow piled on everything but the road. I was in a bad way.
I waded through knee-deep drifts of snow, until I made it back to the roadway. I stuck my thumb out, trying to hitch a ride, and there I was standing an hour later, as the freezing wind tore through my flimsy suit coat. I realized with a sinking feeling that these b******s were too intent on getting home to their dinners and remote controls in a nice warm house, to ever stop for some poor shmuck hitchhiking. I knew all-too-well what they were thinking, because I was one of them. I was wasting my time. I quickly thought of my options. I was freezing, with lightweight clothing that was never designed for freezing temperatures; miles from home; it was quickly getting dark, even though I worked a 6am to 2.30 pm schedule, and I was in real trouble. Unless...the freeway ran north-south, before looping around the mountain in the distance. There was a trail that went straight to my town. If I struck out to the trail, I'd be cutting miles off my journey.
The numbing cold tore at me as I started walking. My feet were soaked, as well as numb, as I wearily picked up one foot, dragged myself forward a few inches, and picked up the other. But having to work so hard seemed to be helping to keep me at least warm enough. But I knew if I stopped, I would quickly freeze, so I kept moving. If I kept my mind busy, I wouldn't think about my dire circumstances. Unfortunately, I couldn't help but think of the distance still to go, though, and my anger exploded. I know I should have been worried about freezing, but all I could think about was how crappy this whole day had been.
Then, in the twilight, or what little of it remained, as I rounded a corner, I beheld an incredible sight. There in the distance, lay a snow-covered field, with cows grazing, all framed by the golden fire of the setting sun. The view was so breathtaking, that it stole my anger, I forgot how miserable I was, and just stared in wonder at how beautiful the scene was. It was literally impossible to stay in a bad mood gazing at this wonderful sight. I gazed at the shivering landscape until long after the moonlight was casting bazaar shadows on everything. Then the cold returned, and I reluctantly resumed my homeward trek. I knew frostbite was a very real danger, and it drove me on as fast as the snow would allow.
I swear my toes had dropped of when at last I finally made it into my town.
I staggered up my front steps, and my frozen fingers somehow managed to get the key in the lock, and a wave of warmth flooded out the door into my face. It felt incredibly comforting, and then it managed to make it to the couch, where in stripped off my shoes and socks. I went over to the sink, where I plunged my feet into a tub of lukewarm water I had run. Daggers of pain shot up my leg, nearly blinding me. God, did that ever hurt! After a few seconds, the shooting pain turned to burning, and eventually to normal. I was afraid to look, but I forced myself. My feet where beet-red, but I could put weight on them. Thank goodness, there didn't appear to be any frostbite damage. After my fear was alleviated, my thoughts returned to the beautiful scene from before. As I reflected on nature's beauty, I thought about what my bosses at the CPA's office had said about my bad attitude. I thought back to the rage I'd felt before the car wreck; maybe they had a point. It dawned on me that being so full of rage , I was only hurting myself. I vowed to try not to try and have a better attitude. Starting tomorrow, people would start noticing the difference.